PARIS - France has been witnessing unrest and violent rallies since mid-November, when the so-called “yellow vest” demonstrators took to the streets to protest a fuel price surge. Diesel prices have jumped by 23 per cent because of rising prices and the new tax, who was approved by Emmanuel Macron’s government for environmental purposes in 2017.
Seventy-two per cent of French citizens have spoken out in favour of the “yellow vest” protests, prompted by fuel prices increase, the survey for the European broadcaster RTL has revealed. The research, conducted by the sociological service Harris Interactive and published on December 2, has shown that the majority of respondents support the demonstrations although they turned into violent rallies in several French cities, including Paris.
However, 85 per cent of those polled indicated that they were appalled by the violence and condemned the riots and unrest despite “understanding and supporting the movement.”
“Yellow Vests” Against New Tax
The "yellow vests" protests against the fuel prices increase and newly introduced tax have been held in France since November 17. They are named after the French obligation to wear a yellow light-reflective vest while driving, and organized through social media.
The demonstrations have grown into violent clashes with police and riots, which have left 3 people dead and hundreds injured, including police officers. In the French capital, the first December weekend was marked with clashes between 8,000 protesters and 5,000 police officers. Tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons were deployed against rioters; one died and at least 133 were injured. Dozens more were wounded in other cities, such as Toulouse in southwestern France, where 57 people sustained injuries; five of them were hospitalized.
The protests in Paris have continued on Monday morning with a demonstration by France's ambulance staff. At least a hundred paramedics blocked traffic at the Place de la Concorde (8th district) in Paris to demand the suspension of medical transport finance reform.
The riots inflicted damage to businesses, as some shops were reportedly looted by rioters. City property, including Paris' most recognizable landmark, the Arc de Triomphe, was sprayed with anti-Macron slogans. A statue of Marianne, another symbol of the nation, was smashed by vandals.
Following three consecutive weekends of protests, the French authorities haven't ruled out the possibility of introducing a state of emergency in the country. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Europe 1 radio that the Cabinet had to think about the measures that can be taken so that these incidents didn’t happen again.
READ MORE: France to Consider State of Emergency Amid 'Yellow Vests' Protests — Spokesman
The French president, who inspected the vandalized Arc de Triomphe shortly after returning from the G-20 summit in Argentina, earlier harshly condemned violence and pledged to bring perpetrators to justice. However, before that, Macron had stressed, commenting on the protests, that the country's authorities would not revise their decision on the fuel prices hike.
“President for the Rich”
The French government approved the decision to raise a direct tax on diesel, the most popular type of fuel in the country, in 2017, after Emmanuel Macron was elected President. The measure was introduced to reduce the negative impact on the environment, encouraging people to switch to more eco-friendly means of transportation. Diesel prices in France have risen by around 23 percent since the beginning of the year, while petrol prices have gone up by 15 percent. Prices are set to increase further in January.
This and other reforms, introduced by Macron, including the offensive against France’s wealth tax, has provoked ire from both left-wing and right-wing opponents. Slammed in France as “the president for the rich,” Macron revealed plans to lower the corporate tax to 25% and abolish a wealth tax on financial assets. Additionally, France has imposed a flat 30% tax on carried interest and scrapped the top tax bracket. Meanwhile, his approval rating had dropped to 20 per cent, even before the “yellow vest” protests.